Fortunate Sons

Why the Caged Bird Sings

Now that many of us have grown tired of saying "the full monty" when conveying everythingness—or merely disrobing for the shower—the time would have been right for director Peter Cattaneo to give his follow-up a similarly useful title. Alas, Lucky Break(Paramount, in general release) sounds like a cigarette ad, or perhaps a Lifetime series about astrologers for rival newspapers who fall in love. The break in question concerns a two-bit crook's plan to bust out of stir with some buddies, using an inmate-produced musical (written by the warden) as cover. Mike Leigh mainstay Timothy Spall deftly shades in the designated goner, fellow Still Crazy alum Bill Nighy is sweetly wispy as the capable fop, and anger-management counselor Olivia Williams trembles pleasantly as usual. Though lead jailbird James Nesbit ambles like George Clooney's understudy, the show-within-the-show is reliably Guffmanic in its ineptitude. Best of all, multitasker Stephen Fry supplies the songs, ranging from Gilbert & Sullivan manqué to Disney-ballad schmaltz, for this spectacularly uncalled-for dramatization of the life of Horatio, Lord Nelson.


Though The Other Side of Heaven (Excel, opens April 12) is to Latter Day Saint proselytizing what Top Gun was to Air Force recruitment, this adaptation of John H. Groberg's memoir of his Tongan missionary years is strangely coy about its denominational allegiance. Indeed, for the first hour, Mormonism is the faith that dare not speak its name (Groberg's pa is cryptically referred to as "the only Democrat in Idaho Falls"), and the non-tithers among us must work with the evidence: the sock hop at BYU, the absence of crucifixes, the frosty reception given "Elder" John (Christopher Gorham) by the island's other Bible-thumper. Perhaps even the SLC high command found writer-director Mitch Davis's wall of kitsch hard going. Despite sole-gnawing rats and a woman of color up for a roll in the ferns, the white man's burden has rarely seemed lighter; straight-arrow John never wavers in his devotion to church and stateside squeeze (Anne Hathaway). When the mother of John's would-be seductress pleads for a "half-white baby," he shows her a picture of his beloved. Overcome with shame, the woman commences to sob.

 
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